School Is Not Supposed to Teach You Everything

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By Andrew Pillow

If you read a lot of parenting and education blogs eventually you are going to come to an obligatory post about, “All the Things They Don’t Teach You in School.” Many writers use this as an opportunity to criticize absent minded teacher or “silly state standards” about how they could forget something so important. That is where this argument goes downhill.

Contrary to popular belief, school is not supposed to teach students every single thing they need to know in life. Nor was it ever intended to. However, that doesn’t stop people from complaining.

This idea isn’t just a product of the blogosphere. My grandmother, an avid gardener, often questioned why schools were no longer teaching gardening.

Over spring break, my wife and I had dinner at a fancy restaurant. The family sitting next to us had two teenagers. The mother was teaching them which utensil to use with what dish. When she finished she lamented the fact that her sons hadn’t “learned proper formal dining manners in school.”

As a classroom teacher, I always find these reflections amusing. When exactly are we supposed to teach these things? We barely have enough time to teach the actual items that need to be covered in our content area let alone the extra stuff people feel like we should cover.

I would love to teach students how to eat at a formal dinner. I’m just too busy making sure they understand how the electoral college works. That’s not to say that formal dinner manners aren’t important. However, that specific lesson probably falls into the category of things you need to learn outside of school, like at a cotillion.

While there is not necessarily a finite amount of learning someone can do, schools do have a finite amount of time and resources to teach. That means many worthwhile skills get tossed to the side in favor of more standard based learning goals.

If you are one of the people that believes young people are missing some critical skills they don’t learn in school feel free to “be the change you wish to see.”

You think students need to learn more gardening skills? Start a gardening club at an after-school program? That’s the solution my grandmother came up with.

Feel like your child needs to learn how eat at formal dinner and dance at a ball? Well put them in a Debutante ball course.

Want your students to learn more ACT/SAT testing strategies than they already do? Enroll them in an ACT/SAT prep course.

If you feel really strongly that something has to be taught at school, then lobby the state to include it in the standards.

But don’t sit back and take shots at teachers because they aren’t teaching kids everything under the sun. Because we all know that when the state test scores come out, teachers aren’t going to be given any leeway on their math and reading scores just because they taught table manners.